November 14, 2007

Ground rules for civil discussions

We’ll operate in an atmosphere of trust, of mutual respect to feel safe to express opinions.
1. Turn cell phones off or at maximum, to vibrate; if you must answer, do so outside this room.
2. Discuss ideas and issues, not people.
3. Disagree without being disagreeable.
4. Listen to the person speaking and focus on his or her comments.
5. Speak for yourself, not others.
6. Encourage others to contribute to the discussion.
7. Try to understand the others, as much as you hope they try to understand you.
8. Stay focused on the topic, although we’ll meander in various directions.
9. Avoid repetition.

I don’t like rules much. The first civility workshops I hosted taught me there was a need for ground rules. People were naming names. I was naïve and not assertive enough then to stop the barrage.

I reformed, searched for ground rules others used and worked to get a short list that would set a civil tone. They’ve worked well now for two workshops and a retreat. People seem very comfortable when they understand everyone is going to abide by common rules.

If you need ground rules for discussions, please feel free to use these or adapt them. At least consider the need for ground rules….even if you don’t like rules much.

June 06, 2007

The handshake and the name badge

A firm handshake with good eye contact communicates self-confidence.

Shaking hands is often appropriate when you are introduced, arrive for a business meeting, close a deal or leave an event, says Giovinella Gonthier in ‘Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace’. Look the other person in the eye, grip his or her right hand firmly and shake hands up and down several times. If you are seated, stand for introductory or farewell handshakes.

You may use your left hand to grasp the other side of the person's hand or to touch his or her arm. This gesture makes the handshake warmer and more personal.

Name badge
Wear your name badge on your right side. The person you shake hands with can easily read your name. I’ve done this for years after reading the tip. It’s a civil thing to do for those who didn’t understand your name when introduced or can’t quite think of your name if he or she should know you or is one of those visual types who needs to see the name in print to remember it.

May 14, 2007

Répondez s'il-vous-plaît, R.S.V.P.

French that translates to ‘respond please’. The Rev. Donald McCullough in ‘Say Please, Say Thank You: The Respect We Owe One Another’ says in some jest…"the number of people who respond seems to have declined to the last 2.6 percent of the population who are still in psychotherapy because they can’t escape the domineering influence of mothers who pounded manners and a lot of other things into them."

When you receive an invitation to a meeting, a reception or some other event, look for that RSVP. I admit guilt; at times I overlook it. When there is an RSVP, we often set the invitation aside and think we’ll check that date and time later to see if it fits into our calendar of life. McCullough believes the real problem is not procrastination, but results from the heart of discourtesy..self-centeredness. Maybe something more interesting will come up for that time slot so we should keep our options open.

Today I received an online invitation through a social planning Web site. The invitation was for a special meeting at an upcoming conference. What I find interesting about these invitations is the RSVP. Those invited can see who has replied they will attend (and their comments), who will not (and their comments), sometimes there is a ‘maybes’ section and always……the e-mail addresses of those who don’t respond.

This invitation came through,, a social-planning Web site for creating, sending and managing online invitations. Launched in 1998, is a free, advertisement-supported service. There are other comparable sites.

With such online invitations, the whole world is watching….well, those invited anyway and they all know if you were respectful and did RSVP.

More about RSVP
About: The Meaning of R.S.V.P.,
HowStuffWorks, What does R.S.V.P. mean?

“Always do right -- this will gratify some and astonish the rest.”
-- Samuel Clemens, better known by the pen name Mark Twain, American humorist, satirist, writer and lecturer. (1835 - 1910)

October 12, 2006

When did you last receive a hand-written note?

Do you remember who sent it?

Most likely you do remember. It takes time and effort to write a note to congratulate someone, say thank you for a meal or a favor, or extend a condolence. In this hurried world filled with electronic messages, people appreciate a personal touch because it is so rare. Written notes are powerful.

At work, send them to vendors, clients, and colleagues who have gone out of their way to help you. Send thank you notes within three days of the service or kindness. Phrases that express appreciation: “I admire the way you…”; “You helped our team by….”; “One of the things I enjoy most about you is…”; “You’re doing a great job of…”

During the holiday season, a client or friend who doesn’t need another gift will appreciate a heart-felt note of appreciation or of reflection.

In your personal life, how many birthday cards or notes do you send to relatives and friends?

Show you value people with effective communication. Get out the stationery or go purchase some…start writing today.

"Good manners are the lubricating oil of organizations."
Peter Drucker, political economist and management consultant (1909-2005)